tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera July 15, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm EDT
short. and we look at an already desperate humanitarian situation become even worse. many migrants deported to honduras, and many of them pledge to go make the trip again. that's all coming up at 6:00 eastern. when i met the president, he did say, i borrowed your slogan. >> activist and presidential medal of freedom winner coined the phrase, "yes, we can." the mantra became barack intaps's call to vote. she co-founded the united farm worker's union. >> when you think of this humiliate people and oppress them and not providing the basic human needs they have is just a
way to make people feel like they are not worthy. >> she is a woman with a colorful past. she stood next to robert kennedy on the day she was shot. she has been arrested more than 20 times and has been brutally beaten by the police. at 84, she remains a steadfast immigrants. >> i think we have to remind people that unless you are a native american that your people came from somewhere and remind people this country was built by immigrants. >> fighting gender inequality >> a crisis right now, which way we are going to go. if we don't have a strong middle class which means higher wages for people, then we are not going to have a democracy. >> i spoke to her as she was passing through washltdz. >> let's take a closer look at immigration reform. it seems even in a zone that's more than stuck because there are political interests at stake, economic interests at stake, some old allies who are
now looking daggers at each other because they can't see eye to eye on this. what's the case that you make to america that we have to change the way people are allowed to stay and allowed to come? >> i think we have to remind people that unless you are a native american that your people came from somewhere, and remind people this country was built bile i am grant. they are doing the heavy lifting working construction and restaurants, taking care of children and taking care of elders in nursing homes. they are working in our restaurants and picking our food every single day that we eat. so we have to remind people of that and, also, kind of educate them on why it is that so many people come from mexico and to the united states and it's because of our free trade agreements. agreements that allow american companies that allow americans to go into central america and put their businesses there, taking the profits out of the country, instead of letting the profits stay there.
we have so many corn farmers that have been displaced because of the subsidused corn that we in the united states send to mexico. all of these small farmers can't compete with the agri business here. we talk about 11 million documented. many are rural farmers that, you know, they are not able to compete with the u.s. and they have to leave. and nobody wants to leave their homes. we have to do like we did with japan and germany after world war ii. we had the marshal plan and gave them jillions of american tax dollars and we said you don't have to pay us back. so everything is the marshal plan mentality to help other countries instead of col onizing or economically col onizing all of these other countries. i think we would be -- we would have better partners, people would like us more and we could really help because people are never going to stop coming to the united states until we can, you know, erase some of these
inequitties that we have. >> people who sometimes say emotional things about this issue under estimate how difficult it is to leave your home and everything you know and come here. what you talk about, i think, makes a lot of sense, that a healthier mexico would be a place where more people would be able to stay. but what we do about the 11 million that are already here is a tough domestic debate and a tough policy riddle. how do you solve this in a way that's fair to everybody? >> well, i think nguyen we do what we have always done. it has always been the policy of the united states of america from day one that all immigrants that come here have been able to acquire their residency and their citizenship. it wasn't as difficult. cesar chavez's mother came across the mexican border and had to paragraph 2 penneys because they needed the workers. we can see that the 11 million that are here are contributing. it's not like, you know, they are living off of the dole of the united states. they contribute trillions of
dollars to the economy with the consumption, by spending and they contribute because of their labor. another trillion dollars to the economy. they deserve to be able to have that you are place in the sun. they deserve to be able to granted residency and eventually citizenship in the united states. they have worked for it. they have earned it. >> sometimes in the same day, we may have different emotions about who these people are, what they are doing here we don't want to buy a $1 strawberry or an $8 head of lettuce. but we also don't want people coming in from another country without obeying the existing laws using public services, sending their kids to the local schools. there is a lot of emotional reaction on the spending side when it comes to what local governments spend on people who are not supposed to be in the country and it's almost invisible, the connelltributions that these very same people make to making places more profitable, to keeping restaurant meals cheap, to
keeping the food we buy very affordable. how do you square those two things? the immigrant as moocher on one hand and a maternity ward in los angeles versus the immigrant as contributor on the other hand, drywalling, landscaping, busing a table? >> well, you know, i work with a lot of immigrants in the foundation, my organization, where we do community organizing. i can assure you what they contribute is so much more than what they take out of the economy. when we think about it, you know, before we had the affordable care act, if you didn't have a healthcare plan, you probably didn't get great quality medical care. but we know right now even with the affordable care act that has been passed that people who are undocumented are excluded from the affordable care act. when we think of what they contribute and what they take out of the economy, i mean you talk about the equation, what they contribute is so much more than anything they take out. >> you are watching "talk to al jazeera" my guest this time
on the program, delores huerta. she is one of the coach founders of the united farm workers and came to activist from workers' rights from being a schoolteacher after concluding she could help those children more by getting their parents a decent wage than she could buy teaching them school. stay with us. when we come back, we will talk more about the founding of a union and where things stand today.
'60s and the conditions then in the fields. farm workers, the people who were making the food that fed americans were hungry. how could that happen? >> well, unfortunately, i think it's still the situation today. we know with the income i inequality we have right now, not only farm workers but many other people still do not have enough food to eat and because everything has been going up, our wages have remain stagnant. actually, a minimum wage today would have kept up with the cost of living, our minimum wage would be over $25 an hour. people don't thing about that. this is what's happened. with the farm workers, luckily in california, we were able to get the right to organize and so in the areas where the united farm worker has union contracts, the wages are higher than, say, than the minimum wage. but we know that other parts of the country, unfortunately, we have a lower minimum wage and farm workers do not have union contracts.
also, in california, we have unemployment insurance for farm workers, disability insurance for farm workers, worker's compensation for farm workers, all laws that were passed with the community service organization by the united farm workers. it's interesting because in new york state, carry kennedy has been trying to get some of the same laws we have in california that we passed those laws in california almost 40 years ago and yet, in new york state, or the rest of the country, you don't have these protections for farm workers. farm workers are suffering. >> why did that battle have to be fought against and again? and once some victories were won, why didn't they stick in a lot of places farm workers have moved backwards from where they were when you won the first contracts with grape growers? >> since jerry brown has gotten re-elected, the legislature passed a law that says if they don't negotiate, they can take them to court and get a bargaining order which means they have to sign a contract.
the farm workers have thousands of workers but they refused to bargain. we will take you to court and force you to sign that contract. >> agricultural labor, the nature of it is such that if one group of workers wants you to negotiate and you don't want to do it, it's not that hard or it hasn't been in the past to just find other workers somewhere else who will accept even lower wages and worse conditions and demand very little in return. that was the situation in the fields in the 'isn'ts. it's rachelleable the degree to which it's still the situation today. >> well, in california, at least workers have the proebz of the for agricultural labor relations law which means that they are protected. they are protected or they try to organize and the employer tries to break their organization or fire someone that they can actually file a complaint against the employer for doing that. and the other areas where -- even if though don't have a union contract, that law
protection the farm workers. unfortunately, we only have that law in the state of california, not the rest of the country. california, of course, employs more farm workers than any other state. so, i think the whole thing of the immigration debate has also really hurt farmers because so many of these raids that the ins have done have been in the farmer communities. it's interesting the hypocracy or the schizophrenia of the employers in the ins, immigration service because when they want to gort comfort workers that are here already working but yet they want to but in contract workers under these foreign worker programs called h2a and these workers from mexico or other places, they have less protection than other workers have. they don't get, you know, the employers don't pay social security for those workers. they don't pay unemployment insurance or disability or any of these other laws. they want this work force that's from outside because that means that the workers can't settle down.
citizens. >> your partner in the struggle, cesar chavez who you mentioned earlier famously said, i am not a mexican leader. i am a labor leader. a lot of people don't realize how much opposition the very young ufw had toward bringing new workers across the border. the growers were able to play off the immigrant workers against the workers already here and that led to some pretty tough struggles of ufw members menti mexicanside of the border. didn't it? we were against the foreign worker program and we worked very hard to defeat that program. way back in the day. but they still have it called the h2a program. one of the reasons we did that was because there was a surplus of workers and the local workers' wages fell but the farm workers were exploited terribly. i can remember fighting for
workers who worked two weeks and had a $15 check. they were injured and wouldn't give them medical care even though they were entitled to it. we are saying workers here, these are immigrant workers we are talking about. here right now, let's give them legal status so they can stay here and work and bring in families. you have families where the children are born in the united states they have legal status. trying to fix this problem. >> it's interesting that we didn't have this argument. going great guns and there were people working in resident illegally in the united states, it felt like there was enough for everybody. we didn't have to have another family fight about it. is it when american families are feeling pressed, people who
can't get enough wok, citizens who contact to cover their obligations is this is it a tough time when other americans are suffering to talk to them about people who want to here? >> it's an interesting argument but when you look right down to it, the wages are so log and the work is so hard. i think if we could get the wages, people might go in there and learn how to do farm work. farm work is not easy. it's like being in sports in the united farm workers contract, i always put in there, workers will only work at a reasonable pace. but if you have a union contract, you can make that happen. they see themselves as professional workers, professional farm workers, they know how to do everything, plant, prune. they know all of the different varieties of work and how to do this work.
it's decent work. the only reason it's looked down on is because the pay is not what it should be. with the union people get treated deefrnlt, that kind of oppression, that kind of an exploitation that you have described, one of the ways it can go on is because when we sit down to eat, we don't connect what we are about to do to the struggles of those working people. a lot of people may not realize that you were one of the brains behind the boycott movements of lettuce and grapes in the 1960s and '70s that was a movement that connected the table to the field. can you do that again? >> i think we are going to have to do that again. i think one of the themselves that in our society, we have to remind people that we are all connected, that the undo you think worker who is out there picking your lettuce -- and that lotus is going to come straight to your table, you know. we want that worker to be in a safe condition. we want that lettuce to be clean.
we want to make sure that there is bathrooms out there in the field with soap, you know, and paper towels, you know, water so that they can wash their hands. we want that worker to be healthy. we don't want your food to be contaminated. every time we sit down, we should think about the worker that picked the food and the people that processed the food. i think we are kind of spoiled in the united states of america because we are not taught to respect people who work with their hands. they build the wealth of the country whether it's making our clothes or, you know, making our furniture, building our automobiles, whatever it may be. we are so dependent, but we are not taught to honor people. we need to do that as a society because somehow, we are taught that, you know, the only people we really think are great are the rich people, the melons and the rocker fellers, those who have tons of money and bill gates and people like that but we have to change our mentality to understand that we are all connected and that we have enough resources in our country to share.
it's kind of interesting how on every election cycle, we find some politician who has antiimmigrant to find out that there is a -- people who are undocumented working maybe in horse stables or working as their gardeners and nancy as they try to separate themselves from that but it comes out in every single election cycle, we are all depend event on each other. we've got to realize that. >> del ores huerta is with me. we are watching "talk to al jazeera" many don't realize cesar chavez was one of the public faces, she was back in the board rooms negotiating with the growers often the om woman in the room. we will talk about the struggle for women's rights which is engaging her today in her 9th decade when we come back.
>> it's a chilling and draconian sentence... it simply cannot stand. >> they are truth seekers... >> all they really wanna do is find out what's happening, so they can tell people... >> governments around the world all united to condemn this... >> as you can see, it's still a very much volatile situation... >> the government is prepared to carry out mass array... >> if you want free press in the new democracy, let the journalists live.
america mobile app, available for your apple and android mobile device. download it now . >> you are watching talk to al jazeera. i am ray suarez. with me this time on the program, delores huerda. when you were negotiating at a time first ever farm worker contracts with some of the biggest agricultural operations in california, did they take you seriously? these were not men who used to -- who are utilities to dealing across the table seriously with women. >> i think it caught them unaware you see and it was difficult often for them. and it was interesting because i found out that the best way to get a good contract is to point
out the i hope justices that were happening in the field. sometimes, they were kind of unaware of it because they didn't know what their foremen were doing. when you think of this mentality that you want to hugh military ate people and you want to oppress them and not providing the basic human needs that they have is just a way to make people feel like they are not worthy action like they don't have value. isn't it sad to think it took almost 20 years to get that simple law passed. you know, by pointing this out to the employers and making them realize that the workers are human beings, that's how we were able to make some of the changes. i was able to get very good contacts for the workers that sometimes they, i think, they felt kind of embarrassed by it so they would call me names like the dragon lady. you know, i was always very civil because when you are in negotiations, you have to be civil. you can't get anything done if you are going to get into a shouting match or start insulting each other.
>> during these years of intense struggle, travel, work on the picket lines, work in the negotiating tables, you had 11 children. how did you do that? i mean i don't understand. you must have been -- there must have been a time in your life where you were either pregnant or just getting over being pregnant while all of these other things were going on. >> well, actually when we started the union, i already had my first seven children. and, you know, my older children helped me with the younger ones but really helped me with a lot of people that came forward to help me. i drugged them around the country with me and at one point in the united farm workers world, in 1965 and '66, when we had the big one, i set up the first day care for farm worker children in california and we had people come and showed us how to set that up. and that's a big problem for women today because we have a lot of women. day care is extremely expensei for women.
you know, they have to pay half of their salary or more sometimes just to get somebody to have adequate, safe care for their children. and we are talking about day care, we want like what we did in the union, we actually set up a school for the kids. president obama has actually stated we need to have early childhood education for all of our children and it's been proven if children can get learning at a very early stage, that it really helps them in terms of their abilities then to learn and even to go to college. so, i think this is a mandate, you know, we are the only developed country in the world that does not have this kind of care for our kids and this kind of education. >> at the time you won the first contract for the united farm worker's union in the late '60s, the children of farm workers followed the seasons, followed the crops, were never in school for very long, had a fragmented episodic education and then, as soon as they were able to do worthwhile work, themselves, sometimes barely out of
toddlerhood, they were in the fields, too. if you are the children of -- if you are the child of a my grant worker today, is your life better than it was 45 years ago? >> again, i have to say that in california, where we have strict enforcement of the law, that, you know, we do have a better life for farm worker children and we have the migrant education programs, also. and this is national so that when children travel from texas to california with their families that are working, they areability, you know, carry their curriculum and whatever level they are at so that they don't lose their education. >> let's keep it out because you keep remilding us that california has a lot of legal guarantees. if you are picking cherries inwic or appear eldz in michigan or peaches in south carolina, what about those kids? are they protected in any way? >> no. i don't believe that they are. and in fact, lucille roybal,
since the last congress, to try to, you know, equate at the national level what we have in california in terms of the wamingz and the ages of the children to work in the fields and again, her bill hasn't been able to pass. so, you know, a lot has to do with who you like to get through the legislation to protect workers. we can't do it if we have people in the congress that don't really care about working people, whether they are farm workers or any other kind of workers. we have to understand that if we do not vote, if we do not engage, if we do not learn and study who is running for office, we are not going to get good government. some of these, you know, laws that could protect us, they are not passed because of people we elect to office are against them. you know, we have 60% of the people in the congress who are millionaires and many of these millionaires are not going to care about what happens to working people. i mean they are not all like the kennedys, you know, or the clintons, you know. so
we have to really -- i think we are at a crisis right now, which way we are going to go. if we don't have a strong middle class, which means higher wages for people, then we are not going to have a democracy. and this fight against labor unions is going to destroy our democracy because labor unions are the ones that areability people. >> it was groups of voters who had been less active in previous elections who helped make barack obama president, youth, latinos, asians, you are helping to register them. you are helping to engage them. they helped make barack obama president. are you disappointed that this president hasn't done more for represent? >> i think the president has done a good job. when we think about the affordable care act, i mean that was huge. and we have to remember that only passed congress, the house of representatives by five or six votes. in our area, we fought very hard
and got two votes of those five or six votes that passed. he has had a really hard time in working with the congress and a lot of people, they criticize the president but they forget that he can't make the laws. he can only sign the laws that they pass in the u.s. congress some of the when we talk about he had the jobs act that they needed more money to put people to work and now we hear the republicans saying jobs, jobs, jobs. why wouldn't they vote on the jobs program that the president tried to pass? right? extending unemployment insurance to people, cutting food stamps. this is what the house of representatives has done. and people want to turn that around and blame the president. >> during the president's time as a national candidate, he began to pick up the slogan from the fields. this? >> well, when i met the president, he did say, i borrowed your slogan. i said yes, you did. a lot of people don't know that i coined it.